“PORN THEATER”–in the dark

“Porn Theater”

In the Dark

Amos Lassen

“Porn Theater”, a French film, is not for the squeamish. It is about a place where many will not admit that they go and when they see what it looks like on film may never go to again. What amazes me about the film is that it made me feel as if I was a voyeur looking at a day in the lives of the people on the screen. We watch them as they look for friendship, search for affirmation, seek pleasure from addiction (sex) and enjoy pure anonymity. We don’t disturb them, we simply observe and they don’t know that we are watching. These are people we see every day wherever you live.

The film is a study of a part of many people’s lives that many are not aware of. Here is an aspect of human sexuality that is not spoken of, a part of the sexual underbelly that is not often regarded except by those that take part in it. The writer and director, Jacques Nolot, thinks that we should be aware and he invites us into the bowels of Paris to a theater that shows straight porn for a mixed clientele—military men, straight men looking for gay sex, married men who need to explore their senses, transvestites, old men for whom this is their only sexual outlet and the regular customers who come every evening to the dark theater for anonymous sex.

The movie theater is much more than a theater—it is life for some of the people. The view of human behavior is set against the backdrop of the various sexual acts that happen within the theater. Transsexuals walk about the dark dingy theater looking for johns, there are group encounters going on in the bathrooms. There are approaches and rejections and there is a group of people who cannot seem to connect to others except for quick satisfaction in the dark. What we see is very bold but at least we get to see what goes on in this strange little microcosm of society. There is social importance in this film as it brings to the fore an aspect of sexuality not often seen or heard about.

In some instances, the interaction between the customers is touching and they seem to be completely open. This is a human, touching and sad look at people. This is most definitely not a love story. There is a trend in French cinema which questions how much we are allowed to see in a film—what makes a movie pornographic and what makes it art?

The film is quite long. The happenings in the theater become repetitive but there is also action form outside at the cashier’s booth.

The cashier (Vittoria Scognamglio) plays the role of stage manager. She has seen it all, every aspect of sexuality and has experienced it and is completely non-judgmental, She speaks with her straight young projectionist who finds her attractive on several levels and with one of her regular movie-goers, a fifty-year old man who is living with AIDS but doing so with responsibility. He finds his only sexual outlet to be in the dark of the movie theater. As the movie moves along, the cashier expresses her views on sex with these two men and at the end the three of them seem to be leaving for some kid of communal rendezvous.

There is no sensationalism in the film and it succeeds in depicting the reality of adult movie theaters. For that alone it should be watched.

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